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Darling - D2R

Darling - D2RBack in the mid-90ís, I was at a then well known prog venue (now, sadly, closed) to see a band (which shall remain nameless) I had previously seen and enjoyed on many occasions.  The venue was in their hometown and, as you would guess, the place was packed with loyal and enthusiastic fans.  The set was long so was split into two parts with a break for an interval. 

The bass player had spotted me in the crowd and at the break came over to me and told me to hang about because I would enjoy what was coming next.  Thoughts of scantily clad fillies showering me with affection seemed unlikely, but I waited while a chap constructed a bank of three keyboards at the front of the stage.  Once everything had been connected and power was switched on, this chap took his place behind the keyboards and let rip at an astonishing pace.  Power, accuracy and improvisation was everything.  It was like having a concentrated one-man ELP.  Unfortunately most of the audience were only there for the band and didnít give this Ďintervalí performance the attention it deserved.

The chap in question was not Hal Darling, but I mention it because he was attempting to do what Hal has achieved if D2R is anything to go by.

Hal Darling is based in Nebraska and is foremost a drummer and composer but also a pretty mean keyboard player (as Hal says, drums alone have certain limitations for composing).  He studied at the Percussion Institute in LA and lived in Europe for a time before returning to the States.  He released his first album called simply, Darling, in 1996.  The follow up, D2R, was released in 2003 (D2R = Darling 2nd recording).

D2R could be described as powerful fusion, an amalgamation of jazz, rock, prog and classical.  The keyword in that last sentence is Ďamalgamationí because the component genres are recognisable but do not appear without one another.  As a, predominately, prog rock aficionado I cannot help but hear the likes of Keith Emerson, Gong (especially some of the percussion sections), Zappa, King Crimson and Gentle Giant, all of which should give you an idea of the complexity, versatility and progressiveness involved in Halís music.  Whilst Hal plays keyboards and percussion, he is joined on this album by guest musicians Uri Gatton (electric, acoustic, MIDI guitars) and Athan Gailis (woodwinds, brass and MIDI horns), who provide added depth and texture.

Track titles may seem slightly ridiculous (if you have seen any Hatfield and The North, Gong or Stackridge track listings, maybe they wonít) but I would like to think that they reflect Halís sense of humour Ė dark humour.  Clown On Fire (we can dream), Prom Vomit, Where Seraphs Despair, An Unsettled Score (note the double meaning) and the wonderfully politically incorrect Mr. Smith Shows The Children How To Smoke A Cigarette to mention a few, may elucidate humour and, perhaps, a miniscule of eccentricity but you have to read Halís liner notes for each track to see that the laughs donít stop there:  The manís writing is every bit as entertaining as his music, which, perversely, is entirely instrumental.

I have said many a time that words can never be a substitute for actually listening to the music and listen you must to D2R.  Ever changing melodies, dark overtones and dissonance are delivered with equal measure of aggression and delicateness.  This is one powerful album.  Visit Halís site (link below) and listen to some MP3 samples and youíll see what I mean.

And what became of the chap with the keyboards I met at the gig?  We spent a lot of time discussing his music after the gig and he was encouraged to continue his art.  Sadly, a matter of weeks later, he became afflicted with a sort of RSI injury affecting his wrist and fingers and now composes and plays in moderation for his own pleasure.

Jem Jedrzejewski



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